Championship: Middlesbrough 3 QPR 2
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Queens Park Rangers twice threw away a lead to come away empty-handed from the Riverside, as Middlesbrough maintained their unbeaten home record this season.
Ian Holloway’s side took the lead at the beginning of each half when David Wheeler and substitute Jamie Mackie scored in the second and 50th minutes respectively.
But Boro pegged them back twice courtesy of Lewis Baker’s goal nine minutes before the break and then Ashley Fletcher’s header in the 56th minute and, despite a few other late scares, the hosts sealed all three points thanks to Britt Assombalonga’s diving header on the hour.
Holloway could not have asked for a better start. He knew Middlesbrough had not conceded in any of their opening three matches on home soil but it only took 101 seconds to end that.
Garry Monk’s side, without the wing-wizardry and pace of the suspended Adama Traore following his sending-off in midweek, were slow out of the blocks.
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The home defence was caught napping when Luke Freeman rolled a pass into the penalty area and Wheeler arrived undetected before finishing low and beyond Darren Randolph.
Randolph was called upon occasionally but by and large he was left to monitor events at the other end of the pitch in the first half, where QPR did what they could to prevent Middlesbrough from testing his opposite number Alex Smithies.
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There was a harmless effort from Stewart Downing which rolled into the arms of the goalkeeper, while the lively Marvin Johnson saw a shot fly wide after a lovely turn and pass from Downing.
Holloway’s game-plan appeared as if it would work to a tee and keep QPR ahead at half-time, only for Baker to strike and make things even for the second half.
Baker, on loan from Chelsea, was picked out in acres of space by Johnson’s reverse pass and he took a touch before carefully dispatching a low finish beyond Smithies that levelled things up.
The England Under-21 international had another chance before the break too, but this time Smithies, diving low to his left, was equal to his half-volley from the edge of the area.
But Middlesbrough, who boldly threw on forward Fletcher for midfielder Adam Clayton for the second half, suffered further frustration with a poor goal.
QPR’s own substitute put them in front again asa Mackie was left to tap into an empty net with a simple finish after Randolph and Ben Gibson got themselves in a muddle outside the box.
The lead lasted just five minutes, though, as Fletcher timed his run to the near post to perfection to glance in Cyrus Christie’s perfect delivery - and Boro suddenly had lift-off.
Assombalonga, who also wasted an opportunity for his second, dived to head Middlesbrough in front on the hour mark when Johnson picked him out with a beautiful chip into the six-yard box following a run to the byline.
Rangers went within an inch of levelling late on when an unmarked Pawel Wszolek crashed an effort against the post, but Boro held on.
QPR: Smithies, Furlong, Baptiste, Robinson, Bidwell, Luongo, Freeman, Manning, Wheeler (Sylla 68), Smith (Mackie 46), Lua Lua (Wszolek 46). Unused subs: Borysiuk, N’Gbakoto, Lumley, Osayi-Samuel.